Senator Mitch McConnell is doomed in 2014.
Maybe "doomed" is a little overstated, but he's certainly facing an uphill battle that his campaign hasn't seen since he first ran 30 years ago. Things are changing in D.C., and McConnell is no exception.
Here are four reasons the minority leader may soon be saying farewell to the upper chamber.
1. McConnell's no longer a sure bet. For one thing, his traction is fading. In 2002, he won reelection by a landslide -- nearly 30 percent. Only six years later, though, his election victory came within six percentage points of a mediocre Democrat. Now McConnell will be running against Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's current Secretary of State who beat her Republican opponent two years ago by more than 21 percent of the vote. That's saying something in such a predominantly right-leaning state. Candidate Ashley Judd would have been a cake walk; Grimes, with her familial and professional ties to fundraisers, is a real threat.
And let's not forget that Republican candidate Matt Bevin is challenging McConnell in the primary. Bevin touts immediate private-sector experience and has already received potential endorsements from numerous influential groups, including the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund. Will donors continue to invest in an incumbent they aren't sure has a chance at winning? No way.
2. McConnell counts as "leadership." Striking down a minority leader shakes things up a lot in the Senate. Senator Rand Paul automatically becomes a senior senator after only three years in office. (Talk about a quick promotion!) Furthermore, someone important stands to fill in McConnell's empty leadership seat -- which might suddenly turn into an empty majority leadership seat, assuming Nate Silver is still on his game. Then McConnell's replacement will give up his own undoubtedly high-ranking committee seat to someone else... and the story continues through this long line of dominoes.
3. Rand Paul isn't a kiss-up. When McConnell's office attacked Bevin as an "East Coast con man," Paul didn't rush to McConnell's side in support. He simply explained that Bevin is a "good family man [who] does mission work" and left it at that. Even though the Kentucky senators have developed a political alliance of sorts over the past two years, Paul will never forget that he got elected only after defeating McConnell's hand-picked primary candidate Trey Grayson. So, while antagonism is off the table, it's unlikely Paul will bring out the big guns for McConnell's reelection. And, in a state-based campaign that relies heavily on relationships with local politicians, sometimes neutrality says more than anything else can.
4. McConnell's campaign manager is... less than liked in some circles. Jesse Benton, the man in question, has a long history working with the Paul family. (He moved to McConnell's camp in September 2012.) However, many libertarians blame him for poor morale among Ron Paul volunteers. Benton's alleged execution of ineffective campaign tactics (and the salary he took for doing so) has been criticized by everyone from random Internet users to established voices like New York Times bestselling author Tom Woods. The libertarian influence here may be mild at best, but it's very possible that Paul loyalists will decide to back McConnell's opponent for no other reason than to spite Benton, even if that just means a few hundred dollars with menacing smirks to match.